Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders of the European Union say that they hope to have “in place a deal by the end of March”. This type of agreement could lead to serious sanctions being lifted as early as June.
Next month, Iran will vote in presidential elections for a successor to Mr. Rouhani. The leading candidate appears to be cleric Ebrahim Raisi, a populist who has ties to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Raisi was banned from running for president in 2013, but was appointed Iran’s chief prosecutor after Rouhani was elected. Rouhani allies say they’re worried Raisi may win, giving the supreme leader what they see as a double victory: further consolidating his control over the country, and allowing him to mend fences with the EU.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, makes a statement while meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, in Tehran, Iran, in June 2017. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Mr. Rouhani hasn’t hesitated to propose changes to Iran’s social safety net. In 2013, he created a “health savings account” for citizens. Last May, he ordered health authorities to replace subsidies and free medicine with cash payments, as well as to look into impeaching the director of the country’s three largest hospitals. The Iranian people reacted angrily to his policies, and Shahindokht Molaverdi, the country’s labour minister, was forced to resign last June after a flood of protests led to clashes between protestors and security forces. In December, Mr. Rouhani helped win the release of seven prisoners, including a man jailed for publicly singing the national anthem. Iranian and Western media reported at the time that the release was only possible thanks to a clandestine deal between the Iranian and American governments.
Arab League states (pending a decision) gave Iran 48 hours to withdraw its ambassador from Qatar after a group of Iranian pilgrims were assaulted while taking part in the Hajj pilgrimage.
Mr. Rouhani may have some “regret” over his drafting of constitutional law in 2013 and 2014. Then, he submitted revisions to two bills. One of them would have lifted a clause that restricts the Supreme Leader to having five vice presidents in the future. He has since said that he would ask for the cabinet to consider a change to the clause and to “object to an article which undermines the government’s management.”
Last May, Mr. Rouhani said that he was having “difficulties” in discussing a nuclear deal with world powers, but that he “resisted the temptation to consider giving up any part of the agreement.” In December, he added that “the economic weakness in the United States should not affect our co-operation” with the U.S.